What influence did Greek philosophy have on the formation of orthodox Christian doctrine?

Particularly, what Christian doctrines or paradigms of understanding God and reality can be traced to have been influenced by Greek thought?

  • After seeing some answers, I see that this might give birth to another trinity argument on this site. While I welcome evidence that the trinity doctrine's formation was directly influenced by greek thought, I'm also interested in paradigms of greek thought, not just doctrine. For example, I've heard it said that God existing “outside time” is a greek understand of God’s eternity rather that a Hebrew one, and that that a dichotomy between heaven and earth is also Greek, while a Hebrew understanding is different, yet I've to encounter clear evidence that supports these claims. – למה זה תשאל לשמי Jan 27 at 23:39
  • Could you clarify is this question specific to the Eastern Orthodox Church? – Autodidact Jan 28 at 1:56
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    No, by Orthodox I mean all mainstream Christianity that holds to the creeds, such as the Nicene, Athanasian, Chalcedonian creeds, etc. – למה זה תשאל לשמי Jan 28 at 2:02
  • That’s what I figured. I merely wanted to clarify. Thank you – Autodidact Jan 28 at 2:59
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    Personally, I'm as sceptical when people claim things about the "Hebrew mind" as I am when they claim that something is adopted from Greek thinking. – curiousdannii Jan 28 at 8:13

There were a lot of things that Greeks taught and believed that resemble what mainstream Christianity has come to embrace. For example

The concept of a soul within us that cannot die first became a ‘Christian’ doctrine at the end of the second century AD. Hell had been taught in Greek philosophy long before the time of Jesus, with Plato (427-347 BC) as the important leader in this thinking. The teaching of an everlasting place of punishment for the wicked is the natural consequence of a belief in an immortal soul. By the year AD 187, it was understood that life, once we have it, is compulsory; there is no end to it, either now or in a world to come. We have no choice as to its continuance, even if we were to commit suicide to end it.

More detail given at Truth According to Scripture

  • Your answer gives one the impression that Christianity was nested in Greek history and culture when in fact it was nested and birth in a Hebrew context with Jewish leaders and Jewish writers, with far greater historisty and influence than the Greeks had on the early Church writings. The NT is mirrored in the OT Scriptures and prior to its compilation all they had was the Hebrew Scriptures as their guide. Unless you know of Apostles making doctrines from the writings of the Greeks who in turn got much of their influence from the Northern Thracians culture/s. You might make a case for the RCC – Autodidact Jan 28 at 1:03
  • @Autodidact No one is saying the scriptures themselves are tainted with Greek philosophy but in the first few centuries after the NT was completed Greek philosophy heavily influenced the orthodox doctrine formation. – Kris Jan 28 at 1:10

The early church fathers though maybe influenced were very much sympathetic to many stoic philosphers ideas of morality being an abstract thing not to do with the gods. As a concept of morality being written on the heart, the early church fathers knew the motivation for the ideas of logos was because the roman and greek pantheon of gods did many immoral things so the romans had to get their heads around a deity that did good and was the source of good.

  • Ill edit this tomorrow please hold your downvotes until then – Neil Meyer Jan 30 at 18:03

In 2018 I wrote an article titled "Ousía and hypostasis from the philosophers to the councils" which probably answers most of this question, so I will just link to it. It is also in PDF format in academia.edu.




Plato's concepts and ideas came via as follows:-

The line of Pagan Greek Philosophers that lead to Plato (and onward), and their kind of Philosophical/Theological thought that was adopted by false teachers to formulate Christian doctrines and teaching are as follows, Pythagoras (spent many years in Egypt), Parmenides, Heraclitus ('Logos') , Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Philo (c.25 B.C.E. - 40 C.E. Jewish), Ammonius, Origen & Clement (Alexandria) & Plotinus (Neoplatonist; Rome), Prophyry, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas (Catholic) and from the Catholic Church into all other sects of Christendom’s churches down to today.

A. Monads:-

  1. The Good* (Plato's Phaedo)

  2. The Logos (Gk.- "ho Logos"; The Word)

  3. The First Cause* (Plato's Timaeus)

  4. Demiurge (Plato's Timaeus)

  5. World Soul

  6. Theory of Ideas or Forms or Essences (Plato's Republic)

  7. Being* (Ontology)

  8. Utopia (Plato's The Ideal State)

  9. Immortality [of the Soul] (Plato's Phaedo)

  10. Mathematics?

  11. Dyads:

a. Reality & Appearance.

b. Ideas & Sensible Objects.

c. Reason & Sense-perception.

d. Mind & Matter

e. Soul & Body.**

f. 1st God & 2nd god**** (God from God)

g. One & Indeterminate

h. Rest & Good

i. Motion & Evil

j. Life & Mind

k.Potency & Activity* (*Aspects of the Supreme God or Divinity)

l. Reason & Principle (See No.2, Understanding)

  1. Triads:

a. God & Ideas & Matter (Jupiter, Minerva, Juno)****^^

b. God & Sophia & Logos.****

c. Father & Power & Intellect. ****

d. Being & Life & Intellect.****

e. Mind & Body & Soul.

f. First Cause & Logos & Soul/Spirit.*****

g. God & Form & Matter (Monad + Dyad)^

h. God & Logos & Matter (Monad + Dyad)^

i. Father-God & Creator-God or Logos & World-Soul****

j. Infinite Dyad & World-Soul & Matter****

k. Father & Power & Intellect****

l. Father (God) & Intellect * World-Soul****

Orphic religious teaching: That from the earth comes the Body and from heaven comes the Soul in Plato's Phaedo*.

***’The history of Western Philosophers’ by B. Russell

****’The Philosophy in Christianity’ Ed. by Godfrey Vasey

*****'The Decline and Fall of the Roman', Chap. XXI

^’Alcinous – The handbook of Platonism’ p.94

^^’Alcinous – The handbook of Platonism’ p.93


NWT 1 Corinthians 1:20-21 "Did not God make the wisdom (Gk. Sophia) of the world foolish? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not get to know God."

NWT Colossians 2:8 “Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry YOU off as his prey through the philosophy (Gk. philosophias) and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ; …”


First Cause; The supreme in the 'World of Ideas' Jehovah Almighty God the first cause as or 'Forms' was said to be 'Essences'

“The Good,” the Creator of the universe and life (soul).

The "One", which Plato and others sometimes identified with God, & The "Cosmic Soul."

The Logos "ho Logos" 'The Word' 'Divine Reason' The Word of God in the Hebrew Bible or 'Principle' or 'Understanding' or 'Demiurge' or God’s own declaration via messengers the "Mind of god" as manifest in Matter.

"The Word" (ho Logos, John 1:1-2) Jesus.

“Matter” an emanation from the above.

The Holy Spirit or power of God

Greek God Deity + Logos + Power = God.

The Bible’s God Jehovah God by Holy Spirit created The Word (His Son Jesus)

Christendom's God Father + Son + H. Spirit = God.

In short.

  • Trinity did not start in a foreign culture’s philosophy it started with the Hebrew people themselves, and Jews were Hebrew and Christians were initially all Jews. Given the Hebrews developed the concept long before the Greek version it’s very difficult to claim that the latter influenced the former with centuries and geographic non-tangential gaps. The concept of Trinity is right in the very first sentence אלהים and not singular אל, and Shema Israel describe it thus אחד as opposed to יחיד – Autodidact Jan 27 at 16:11
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    Seems like there is some interesting information in this answer, but presented someone incoherently and confusingly. – למה זה תשאל לשמי Jan 27 at 23:33
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    @Autodidact The historical record is overwhelming that the church of the first three centuries did not worship God as a coequal, coeternal, consubstantial, one-substance three in one mysterious godhead. ... The trinity originated with Babylon, and was passed on to most of the world's religions. This polytheistic (believing in more than one god) trinitarianism was intertwined with Greek religion and philosophy and slowly worked its way into Christian thought and creeds some 300 years after Christ.-christadelphia.org/trinityhistory.php – ethos Jan 28 at 22:30

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